A last night to remember

The RNCM has a rich history of composition. It’s a place where new things happen; where students develop their craft with inspirational tutors and hear their creations come alive on stage.

Immersed in the legacy of alumni such as Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, Sally Beamish and Emily Howard, our School of Composition is renowned for nurturing outstanding talent and we’re continually impressed by the amazing things our students and graduates achieve.

This summer has been no exception. Just over a week ago Daniel Kidane, one of our Honorary Associate Artists, joined a long list of RNCM alumni whose compositions opened the BBC’s famous Last Night of the Proms at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall.

Performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo, Woke, as Daniel describes, is ‘exciting music that awakens and rouses listeners. It also, on a deeper level, refers to the word itself and the need for all to be woke – to be more aware of issues concerning social and racial justice in today’s society.’  You can hear Daniel discuss the piece in more detail and listen to it in full here:

The Last Night of the Proms has provided a platform for RNCM composers to showcase new work for many years. In 2016 Tom Harrold, another Honorary Associate Artist, saw Raze performed by the BBC Proms Youth Ensemble, and in 2014, the BBC Symphony Orchestra opened proceedings with Velocity by Gavin Higgins.

But it’s not just performances at The Royal Albert Hall that come to mind. Each year the Proms offers opportunities for younger composers to develop their skills and see their pieces come to life on stage.

In 2017, Grace Evangeline Mason (then a third year undergraduate and a former BBC Young Composers’ Competition winner) was asked to write a piece celebrating the 300th anniversary of Handel’s Water Music. It was broadcast live at Stage@TheDock in Hull as part of the BBC Proms At… series. And this year, second year undergraduate Alexia Sloane (pictured below with tutor Emily Howard) was commissioned to write a new work for the 2019 festival. Earthward, a six-minute work reflecting climate change (a subject close to Alexia’s heart), was performed by vocal ensemble VOCES8 at Cadogan Hall in July.

alexia sloane emily howard blog

Thanks to this, Alexia has featured in The Guardian and was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Last month they shared thoughts about the experience on our blog and on Saturday 12 October will be a guest on Jess Gillam’s new radio show This Classical Life.

To learn more about composition at the RNCM, click here.

20 September 2019